Mountaineers Begin Road Trip

West Virginia (15-5, 5-2 Big East) plays the first of two straight Big East road games on Wednesday as the Mountaineers visit St. John’s (8-11, 2-6 Big East) from Madison Square Garden.

The Mountaineers overall have won three straight and five of six heading into Wednesday.  The Red Storm, however, is moving in the opposite direction.  After making it to the NCAA tournament a year ago, St. John’s has had to rebuild with a lineup loaded with freshmen.  The Red Storm has four freshmen starting and overall nine freshmen on the roster.

“I think they’re getting better and better,” said Mountaineer head coach Bob Huggins.  “They had a great chance to beat Villanova at home, go to Cincinnati and win – so I think they’re getting better and better.”

That win over Cincinnati, 57-55, has been the only win for St. John’s in its last seven games.  Back on Saturday, the Red Storm led Villanova by 10 with just over six minutes to go, but eventually fell in overtime. 

Added on top of having to depend on so many freshmen, St. John’s is going through this year, for the most part, without head coach Steve Lavin.  Coming off of last year’s 21-12 run with St. John’s, Lavin underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer back in October. 

Lavin has coached in a few games this season and continues to recruit – but for the most part, he’s still recovering.

“I think it would be harder if Steve was there, then he wasn’t there and then he was back again,” Huggins said.  “Right now, he’s not their coach basically – he’s not at practice and he’s not at games.  They’re not playing for him right now.”

West Virginia, meanwhile, is coming off of a win on Saturday over Cincinnati in overtime, pulling itself into a tie for second in the Big East standings in the loss column.  The team took Sunday off from drills in an effort to get their legs back before the upcoming road trip. 

After Wednesday’s game, West Virginia has another road contest set for Saturday against No. 4 Syracuse – a matchup that Coach Huggins doesn’t think his team will be looking ahead to on Wednesday.

“I told them, you’re getting ready to play in the largest city in the world and the most famous arena in the world,” Huggins said.  “Why wouldn’t you be excited about that?  As a player, I couldn’t wait to go play at Madison Square Garden.  That ought to be a dream come true for all of these freshmen.”

West Virginia leads the all-time series against St. John’s 20-16.  The Red Storm, however, beat the Mountaineers last year in Morgantown – it was their first win in the series since 2002.

Tip off on Wednesday night is set for 7:00.  Pregame coverage on many MetroNews stations will start up at 6:00.

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